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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Road to Recovery

Friday, July 6, 2007

A fight with a family member led to a life altering decision for Elizabeth Ann Wetnight on December 26, 2007. She was arrested for "huffing" from shoplifted cans of aerosol cleaner in the restroom of Wal-Mart.

"My life was horrible at the time," Wetnight said, who started huffing -- or sniffing inhalants -- as a joke with friends and was hooked on the "buzz" within days. "I was always getting into trouble somewhere at that time. If I wouldn't have been locked up, I'd have been dead."

Wetnight, 19, doesn't know why she didn't go outside with the canisters.

"I guess I wasn't thinking," Wetnight said, adding that huffing made her forget a lot of things in her life while giving her a false sense of happiness. "You don't think about things, you don't care."

Using daily, Wetnight admits to stealing two or three cans of air duster canisters a day from local retailers at the height of her habit. She had stopped huffing on her own for two months before Christmas, but says the stress of the holidays was too much and she relapsed.

At first, being caught was scary.

"I didn't know what to do," Wetnight said, but she was never angry at the store or law enforcement officials who arrested her. "They treated me right, talked to me. Sgt. Dave Archer took me to jail and talked to me while I was being booked. He wanted to know why I'd done such a stupid thing, something that a lot of people die from, but I was too high to hear, to care."

It was the phone call to her family that really got Wetnight's attention. Having to admit to being arrested for a drug habit, the possibility of not being able to be with her family, her three sisters, was too much.

"Trust me, you don't want to lose your family. You lose family, you mess up your whole life and can't get anywhere without them," Wetnight said. "Even if you do, you're not truly going to be happy. I wanted to get clean right then."

The first 48 hours in jail for a new inmate are spent alone in a cell, according to Wetnight, who said, "It gives you time to think."

Once in lock-up, Wetnight said she was surprised to find so much support from other inmates.

"They've been there a while and they help you get through, to get your act together," she said. "They know what it's like and don't want you to repeat their mistakes."

Some new inmates were not receptive to the help, which, according to Wetnight, becomes aggravating at times.

"A few people were crying all the time, feeling bad for themselves and were just too much drama," she said. "If one person has drama in there, we all have to deal with drama. It gets to where you think, 'yeah I cry to,' but there's a point when you stop crying and start changing what you're doing wrong so you don't have to end up back in there."

Wetnight said there was also a large amount of unexpected support from the jail staff.

"The jailers are all easy to talk to and helped the days go by, as long as you are doing what you are supposed to," she said. "You don't realize how just many good-hearted people are out there that care for you."

After serving her time, Wetnight was released on probation in January, but found herself in a dark emotional place and soon violated her probation and returned to jail in April.

"I turned myself in," Wetnight said. "I was in jail for two months the second time. I was in a really dark place, suicidal, and I think it was actually safer for me to be in jail at that time. It gave the time I needed to think and get better emotionally so I could get back on my feet."

This time, Wetnight took advantage of Narcotics Anonymous classes.

"The meetings help you change, but you have got to want to change first," she said. "I wanted to."

Wetnight also completed courses that allowed her to graduate from Northview High School, but she was in jail during the commencement ceremony in May.

"I didn't expect to wear my cap and gown," Wetnight said.

On June 20, Wetnight appeared in Clay Superior Court before Judge Blaine Akers for an unexpected graduation party complete with cap and gown.

"When I walked out they applauded me," Wetnight said, still emotional at the memory. "I've never felt so good about myself as I did that day."

Wetnight was released from custody that afternoon, ready to get her life together and move on to the future.

"I don't know what the future holds for me, but I know I don't want to be drug down by drama anymore. I'm looking for a job now and have the full support of my family," Wetnight said, adding that she had something for other people heading down a dark path in life to consider. "Don't get angry at being caught. Sometimes getting caught when you're doing something wrong can save your life."

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